Why should the Pope decide what is moral and what is immoral?

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 30 August 2012
Church and State

(Credit: Riccardo De Luca – Update / Shutterstock.com)

This excerpt has been adapted from Chapter 12 of our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s seminal book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (1996). The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.

“I AM convinced that the doctrine of infallibility is in a certain sense the key to the certainty with which the faith is confessed and proclaimed, as well as to the life and conduct of the faithful. For once this essential foundation is shaken or destroyed, the most basic truths of our faith likewise begin to break down.”

—Pope John Paul II
Excerpt from a letter sent to the
German Bishops’ Conference
May 15, 1980

In this statement, Pope John Paul II acknowledges the obvious. The principle of papal infallibility is now the fundamental principle of the Church. It is the glue that holds all dogma, all Church teachings, together. Without it, the whole Catholic system would disintegrate.

For this reason, the primary focus of the Church bureaucracy is on protection of the principle of infallibility. All else is secondary. If this principle is undermined, the system will self-destruct. We should assume there is nothing these guardians of “God’s institution” will not do to protect this principle.

The Vatican’s public attack on contraception has centered on the morality of contraception. Webster’s dictionary defines morality as a doctrine or system of ideas concerned with conduct, or a system of principles or rules of proper conduct. For centuries the Church has relentlessly claimed that she is the only authority with the right to define this system of rules establishing what is right and what is wrong. This claim goes unchallenged. By default, the pope gets to make all of the rules. He decides what is moral and what is immoral. With amazing frequency, American Presidents and statesmen publicly proclaim, in effect, that the pope is moral leader of the world. By doing so, they enhance the pope’s authority and power.

But if the pope must protect the principle of papal infallibility by all means at his disposal, why would he not define the system of rules concerning right and wrong in such a way as to protect his principle of infallibility? In fact, he has. The Papacy has a vested interest in defining the system and a long history of using all means necessary to insure the survival of the institution. In the Catholic system, morality is defined in terms of what will protect the Papacy.

Having been exposed to the living conditions of the world’s poorest peoples on numerous occasions, I came to question the pope’s system of morals. About 25 years ago, after much observation and thought, I concluded that in the deepest sense it was immoral. I cannot imagine accepting this institution’s system of morality. Tens of millions of thoughtful Catholics around the world have reached the same conclusion and have left the Church.

Our willingness to publicly accept the pope’s views and claims of what is right and what is wrong is serving to postpone the inevitable self-destruction of the Papacy. Our leaders should end this unreasonable practice and let self-destruction take its course.

The Vatican similarly claims the exclusive right to define human rights. It is obvious that its definition of human rights also has been formulated to meet its institutional needs. For example, 400,000 women die each year as a result of their fertility: Half of them—200,000—die early, in their teens or 20s, in the course of wanted pregnancies or childbirth. Half of them die later in their child-bearing years as a result of unwanted pregnancies, after they’ve achieved their desired family size. It is reasonable that all women should have the human right to avoid premature death posed by their own fertility by any suitable means they choose, including modern methods of contraception and safe and legal abortion. But this very basic human right does not appear on the Vatican’s list.

Webster defines fraud to be an act of trickery or deceit, especially when involving misrepresentation; an act of deluding; an intentional misrepresentation, concealment, or nondisclosure for the purpose of inducing another in reliance upon it to part with some valuable thing. The Vatican is clearly committing fraud when it intentionally deceives Catholics and non-Catholics alike by describing their list of human rights, when they full well know the list was formulated in such a way as to protect the institution from self-destruction—by protecting the principle of infallibility. It is obvious to the Vatican leadership that these 200,000 women each year are paying with their lives solely to postpone the self-destruction of the Papacy.

I find this behavior shocking, indeed one of the most offensive attributes of this institution. We have the technology and resources to prevent nearly all of these deaths with little difficulty. But not only does the Vatican exclude this basic human right from its list, it has successfully thwarted all efforts to end these needless deaths by providing contraception and abortion to these women.

All American activities that might lead people to believe that Vatican concerns about human rights are genuine should be suspended—with good reason. The Vatican’s incessant cries for “human rights for all” deceives billions of people into thinking that the Vatican is sincere in this concern. The resulting positive image of the Church buys time for the Church by slowing the loss of credibility, postponing self-destruction.

We should not be a party to this obvious deception. We should not, in any way, encourage people to think that the Vatican is the guardian of human rights. The credit fraudulently earned by the Church as a result of our own failure to vigorously challenge the deception will simply postpone the Vatican’s self-destruction.

Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.

Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.

In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984), The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986), and The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996).

The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH
Paperback Publisher: Center for Research on Population and Security (October 1996)
Kindle Publisher: Church and State Press (February 6, 2015)
Kindle Store

During the formative years of the World Health Organization (WHO), broad consensus existed among United Nations member countries that overpopulation is a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future. One of the founding fathers of the WHO, the late Milton P. Siegel, speaks to Dr. Mumford in 1992. He explains how the Vatican successfully stymied the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

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  1. Who else should rule on what is right and what is wrong, if not the Vicar of Christ? "Feed My Sheep," are his standing orders. Where is YOUR authority to question Christ?


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